Stealth Gardening in the Dungeon

Also known as gardening in the odd corner indoors and switching out houseplants that only provide beauty with evergreen perennials that provide beauty and food.

Enter the dungeon:  a one bedroom basement apartment with one tiny high window in the bedroom and two tiny high windows in the kitchen/dining/living room. The place was dark and claustrophic and the bed fit in a lighted nook in the darkest part of the room. The recessed lights were much too bright and at the wrong angle for reading and the nook didn’t have room for a night stand.  Did I mention it felt like a dungeon?.

There was space closer to the window so I moved the double bed to the opposite wall and closer to the window.

I put cheap wooden stools in each corner of the nook with my wood toy box (yarn storage for knitting projects) between, and filled the nook with plants. I hung 3 cherry tomato plants from a 2×4 that I attached to the ceiling and grew tomatoes winter and summer.  Tomatoes are a tropical perennial and you can bring them inside in the winter.  They need a lot of light.

I grew nasturtiums on the stools,  where they could cascade down.  They make peppery and flavorful salad greens.  I brought in a pot of violas for milder greens, then added onion chives.   I put leaf lettuce in one gallon pots snugged in the back.

My 5 foot wide garden with artificial light became a productive salad garden in Seattle’s dreary winter.  It also made my dungeon welcoming.  It did not supply all my food, but a daily salad was nice.

When I moved to Albuquerque, I rented an apartment, then bought a tall modern oak entertainment center 24 inches wide to hold towels in a wheelchair accessible bathroom long on space and short on storage.  I painted it black.  After I bought the trailerstead it bounced from living room to bedroom.

I now use the bottom cabinet to store sheets but the top shelves were too short for display since they were designed for electronic components.  I removed one shelf and hid it behind the unit.

The display light is perfect to keep one plant happy on the top shelf. I have my Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) in it and it is feminine and scuptural.  It also grows slowly and won’t overwhelm the space.  Eventually I will remove the second shelf as it gets taller.  A mint or pineapple sage would work as well and would be pretty and provide a nice scent and edible greens.  I filled the lower two shelves with books.

There are wide entertainment centers made from oak being given away on Craigslist.  I think one could be painted a bright color like red or lime and covered with plants inside a niche or against a bare wall.  They are deeper than bookshelves and hold larger plants.

The wooden toy box from the dungeon shifted to my front living room window and holds a Sage plant with a metal New Mexico skink curled around it.  Instead, I will soon have a tree shaped Rosemary sitting in the window with its piney scent and Christmas cheer.

My Christmas Rosemary can stay in the window all winter because it is not cold hardy enough for my New Mexico mountain Food Forest.  It can adorn my patio next summer, then return to the window for subsequent Christmas cheer.

I have two plug in fluorescent fixtures that are waiting to transform an arched built in bookcase into a plant station.  I removed all the shelves and found two tall ceramic vases at a closeout store.  I inserted pots with cascading Dragon Cactus that will fruit indoors.  They are sculptural and turned a poorly made shelving divider into something more dramatic and attractive.

I have a small niche in my hallway (gas heater removed when I switched to passive solar/electric) that I want to transform into a lighted 7.5 feet tall greenhouse “closet” with shelves for starting seedlings.  The past 2 winters I started seedlings in my 10′ long kitchen window and was heartily sick of the disarray before I could set them out in the spring.  I am planning on lining it with wood, adding shelves and grow lights.  I already have the 1×4 wood to line and frame it, but haven’t settled on how to install lighting.  I want to complete by February so I can set out starts in May.

Grow lights can be used all around the house to keep your winter herb garden happy it you lack a southern window.  A 1×4 can cover the mechanics.

I had a wide east window in my apartment and bought pretty soft blue and green 4″ pots for the narrow ledge, then grew garlic cloves in the window.  I got attached to nipping a few greens for my salads, good thing there were 12 of them!  I grew a year’s supply of garlic that way and they looked pretty from inside and outside.

I once had dozens of houseplants, and still have a couple sitting around.  I am transitioning to pretty edibles that provide food, greens and scent through my long mountain winters.

I was spoiled by long gardening seasons  in Texas.  I could collect something fresh from my garden all year.  I even favored cool season vegetables because I dreaded 100+ hear all summer long.  Still… tomatoes!  I quit canning or freezing vegetables because winters were soft enough to pick something for the table.

Until I have a greenhouse…

My house is green with edible plants.


About rebeccatreeseed

I am a naturalist raised by naturalists. Treeseed is my earned name, while Rebecca is my birth name. I am of Northern European descent, with a quarter Irish.quarter thrown in. I suspect I was a product of northern invaders into Ireland into Ireland. but hard to say since DNA disproved the family story about Apache blood! I have found some odd ancestors to replace them. Last year I bought 5 acres of pinyon-juniper forest on the side of a mountain in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. I am fulfilling a lifetime dream of a cabin in the mountains and a food forest that will feed me and local wildlife. I want to share this new phase of my life with others that might be interested.
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3 Responses to Stealth Gardening in the Dungeon

  1. sage_brush says:

    The only food plant I have growing in my place is a Meyer Lemon. You are inspirational!

    • Thank you for saying so. I love the Meyer Lemon, and gave mine away between Dallas and Seattle. If you can grow lemon everything else is a piece of cake. I garden everywhere because I love plants. Will you bring another plant into your home?

  2. Pingback: Stealth Gardening in the Dungeon | treeseeddreaming | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

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